Forays into Other Music


Book Pages: 496 Illustrations: 60 illustrations Published: October 2015

Author: John Corbett

Art and Visual Culture > Art Criticism and Theory, Cultural Studies, Music > Jazz

Microgroove continues John Corbett's exploration of diverse musics, with essays, interviews, and musician profiles that focus on jazz, improvised music, contemporary classical, rock, folk, blues, post-punk, and cartoon music. Corbett's approach to writing is as polymorphous as the music, ranging from oral history and journalistic portraiture to deeply engaged cultural critique. Corbett advocates for the relevance of "little" music, which despite its smaller audience is of enormous cultural significance. He writes on musicians as varied as Sun Ra, PJ Harvey, Koko Taylor, Steve Lacy, and Helmut Lachenmann. Among other topics, he discusses recording formats; the relationship between music and visual art, dance, and poetry; and, with Terri Kapsalis, the role of female orgasm sounds in contemporary popular music. Above all, Corbett privileges the importance of improvisation; he insists on the need to pay close attention to “other” music and celebrates its ability to open up pathways to new ideas, fresh modes of expression, and unforeseen ways of knowing.


"Corbett has just published a terrific new anthology of his writing called Microgroove, the long-delayed follow-up to his 1994 book Extended Play. . . . There's a lot of great stuff in the new book—which went through multiple iterations over the years, scrapped and revisited several times—but in his introduction to a piece called 'Twenty-Seven Enthusiasms: A Spontaneous Listening Session,' Corbett expresses a major part of what makes his work so special. 'Show-and-tell was always my favorite part of school,' he writes, eventually explaining that 'you accumulate things not to own them, but to share them.' It's what he's done as a writer, a music presenter, and, in recent years, a gallerist, at Corbett vs. Dempsey." — Peter Margasak, Chicago Reader

"One of the more interesting features of Microgroove is the inclusion of multiple pieces on some of the artists. This allows Corbett to consider them from different angles or over time, providing a fuller picture of their art in the process. That, combined with the eclectic scope of Corbett’s interests, makes of Microgroove a rich, multifaceted survey of some of the more challenging artists of the last two decades." — Daniel Barbiero, Avant Music News

"The far-ranging scope of the 53 essays and interviews collected in these nearly 500 pages, dating from 1993 to just last year, reminds us that even within music’s commercially neglected fringes complex gradations of sub-genre exist, separating the hardcore avant-garde devotee from one who thinks they’re down because they own a copy of Space Is the Place. ... But first and foremost [Corbett] is a devotee of challenging and outré sounds, and his essays are most compelling when he dives headfirst into his chronicles with a fan’s enthusiasm and verve. ...These pieces beautifully balance serious musical scholarship and critical analysis with the kind of collar-grabbing, “give-this-a-listen” excitement that draws us all to music in the first place." — Matt R. Lohr, JazzTimes

"Corbett, like the best kind of record store crate digger, pinpoints the association between acknowledged innovators and the achievements of lesser-known figures. . .. [T]he book’s key achievement is how Corbett’s psychiatrist-like probing questions elicit the most definitive and/or instructive statements about their art from certain musicians." — Ken Waxman, MusicWorks

"John Corbett is a smart guy who really, really loves music, and his intelligence and enthusiasm come through in every one of the essays and articles in this volume of his collected writings.... Anyone interested in what was happening on the cutting edge of music during the years these articles appeared needs to read this anthology of John Corbett’s writing." — Ed Hazell, ARSC Journal

"John Corbett's singular critical voice is wildly alive in his latest book, a compendium of previous writings, sober re?ections, clever visuals, idiosyncratic interviews, and post-genre insights into the thriving ecology of knowledge that is the contemporary music scene. At once this is a book that takes its place alongside other distinctive voices in the pell-mell topography of recent musical criticism, from Greg Tate and Lester Bangs to Nat Hentoff and Nate Chinen, and the work of an itinerant witness bearing testimony marked by a vast respect and love for improvised musicking and musical diversity.... Microgroove is an eloquent, readable, playful testimony to the otherness of music as an allegory for creative freedom and as a generative social practice that refuses limitations." — Daniel T. Fischlin, Journal of Popular Music Studies

Microgroove is a brilliant contribution to the tradition of Nat Hentoff, Lester Bangs, Robert Christgau, John Rockwell, and Robert Palmer. John Corbett loves improvisation and can write about unusual and nonpopular music in popular ways, taking readers behind the curtain to help them understand what creativity means and the conditions under which it comes to be. Corbett plays against the ultra-narrowcasting concept that dominates media now, and seeks audiences willing to chance an encounter with the unexpected. The genre-busting of Microgroove is highly laudable and sorely needed."  — George E. Lewis, author of A Power Stronger Than Itself: The AACM and American Experimental Music

"John Corbett likes, I'm sorry - LOVES - all kinds of music. But who doesn't? Well most people really just dig one kind of genre or other but there are those who are into it ALL and continue to seek and follow the wild threads from African American jazz, blues, R&B and hip hop to the indie rock heart beat of college kid psychosis to the luscious worlds of Braziliana to European free improvisation to Japanese noise and pop paroxysm. One may suspect this erudite fellow as a chin scratching academic but I've been in the passenger seat next to this dude while he's blasting Chicago blues cassettes and he's hammering the steering wheel and fully turned on by the dripping music moment of creation and emotion. To share and express the impression of expression in discussion to the intellect and to the cosmic fire, this is where the righteously engaged Corbett comes into play. The respect, consideration and wonder is genuine. As music defines his aesthetic perspective, so he playfully identifies our sentience with the promise of music, the power of foreverness." — Thurston Moore


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

John Corbett is a music critic, record producer, and curator. He is the author of Extended Play: Sounding Off from John Cage to Dr. Funkenstein, also published by Duke University Press. His writing has appeared in Downbeat, The Wire, the Chicago Reader, and numerous other publications.  He is the co-owner of Corbett vs. Dempsey, an art gallery in Chicago.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Preface: Tympanum of the Other Frog  xv

Acknowledgments  xix

Introduction  1

One. On The Road, Into The Cul-De-Sac

Joe Harriott and Bernie McGann: Flying without Ornette  15

Michael Hurley: Jocko's Lament  21

Mayo Thompson: Genre of One  33

John Stevens: Unpopular Populists  36

Peter Brötzmann Tentet: Freeways  40

Steve Lacy: Sojourner Saxophone  49

David Grubbs: Postcards from the Edge  57

Voice Crack: From Nothing to Everything  67

Two. Exigeneses Of Creative Music

Milford Graves: Pulseology  71

Out of Nowhere: Deleuze, Gräwe, Cadence  79

Carla Bley and Steve Swallow: Feeding Quarters to the Nonstop Mental Jukebox  85

Misha Mengelberg: No Simple Calculations for Life  93

Misha Mengelberg and Han Bennink: Natural Inbuilt Contrapuncto  109

Form Follows Faction? Ethnicity and Creative Music  116

Anthony Braxton: Ism vs. Is  123

Anthony Braxton: Bildungsmusik—Thoughts on Composition 171  129

Paul Lowens: Lo Our Lo  132

Clark Coolidge: The Improvised Line  136

Nathaniel Mackey: Steep Incumbencies  142

Sun Ra: From the Windy City to the Omniverse—Chicago Life as a Street Priest of D.I.Y. Jazz  153

Fred Anderson: The House That Fred Built  162

Three. Ululations And Other Vocal Stimulants

Sun Ra: Queer Voice  169

Jaap Blonk: Uncommon Tongue  170

PJ Harvey: Mother's Tongue  179

Aural Sex: The Female Orgasm in Popular Sound (coauthored with Terri Kapsalis)  182

Liz Phair and Lou Barlow: On Music, Sex, TV, and Beyond  194

Liz Phair and Kim Gordon: Exile in Galville?  205

Koko Taylor: The Blue Queen Cooks  212

Brion Gysin and Steve Lacy: Nothing Is True, Everything Is Permuted  217

Four. The Horn Section

Ornette Coleman: Doing Is Believing  233

Roscoe Mitchell: Citizen of Sound  244

Fred Anderson and Von Freeman: Tenacity  250

George Lewis: Interactive Imagination  258

Mats Gustafsson: MG at Half-C  264

Ken Vandermark: Six Dispatches from the Memory Bank  270

Ken Vandermark and Joe McPhee: Mutual Admiration Society  278

Peter Brötzmann and Evan Parker: Bring Something to the Table  285

Five. Track Marks

Oncology of the Record Album  297

Discaholic or Vinyl Freak? Mats Gustafsson Interrogates John Corbett  301

Twenty-Seven Enthusiasms: A Spontaneous Listening Session  308

A Very Visual Kind of Music: The Cartoon Soundtrack beyond the Screen  313

R. L. Burnside and Jon Spencer: Fattening Frogs for Snake Drive  322

Before and After Punk: The Comp as Teaching Tool  331

Raymond Scott: Cradle of Electronica  336

Six. Melodic Line and Tone Color

Peter Brötzmann: Graphic Equalizer  343

Albert Oehlen: Bionic Painting  347

Albert Oehlen: Mangy—A Conversation and a Playlist  352

Christopher Wool: Impropositions—Improvisation, Dub Painting  359

Christopher Wool: Into the Woods—Six Meditations on the Interdisciplinary  366

Sun Ra: An Afro-Space-Jazz Imaginary—The Printed Record of El Saturn  371

Seven. The Texture Of Refusal

Helmut Lachenmann: Hellhörig, or the Intricacies of Perceptiveness  379

Guillermo Gregorio: Madi Music  387

Experimental Oriental: New Music and Other Others  391

Afterword: A Concise History of Music  417

Grooving On: Selected Listening  423

Credits  443

Index  447
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-5870-1 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-5900-5
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